Thomas steps into England Under-21 squad

The Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha is the other player called into Peter Taylor's squad for the first time. Uncapped Aston Villa striker Luke Moore, who is the only player this season to score a league goal against Chelsea, is also in the squad.

Manchester United goalkeeper Luke Steele is included, although Scott Carson is expected to keep the No 1 jersey.

Thomas has been suggested as an eventual solution to the senior team's problematic left midfield role after impressing for the Addicks last season.

The former Arsenal trainee was rewarded with a contract extension by his manager Alan Curbishley, and he is now tied to The Valley until 2007. Taylor, who is also manager at Hull, said: "I've followed him ever since he was at Arsenal and then through his loan spell at QPR - in fact he was a player I was always keen on getting on-loan.

"I'm very impressed with his ability. He's having a tremendous season and injects some excitement into matches with his pace on the wing. It's nice bringing in new players like Nedum and Jerome. It is great seeing players come through the youth development system."

Taylor saw Onuoha play in the Carling Cup against Doncaster when the youngster was sent off as City were knocked out on penalties. "I was very impressed and at his age he is only going to get better and I am delighted to have him on board," Taylor said.

"He looks confident, he is the right size and he clearly has a lot of ability so hopefully he'll come into the squad, enjoy it and do well."

Taylor's youngsters face Austria at Elland Road next Friday, and complete their Group Six fixtures at Hillsborough four days later against Poland.

England are already guaranteed a play-off in November to reach next year's finals tournament, with the hosts to be decided when the line-up is known.

Meanwhile, the Football Association has launched a bid for England to host the Uefa Under-21 Championship the following year when the tournament is moved to odd years.

Proposals have been made for stadiums in the midlands to host most of the matches in the tournament, with the new Wembley to stage the final. FA chairman Geoff Thompson said: "Staging the final at Wembley will be a historic opportunity for the FA and Uefa to firmly give this tournament a major platform as a global football event."

The plan has received backing from Lord Coe, who was instrumental in London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. "England has a unique offering to football fans," he said. "It features some of the world's finest stadia and some of the world's most passionate football fans."

Sven Goran Eriksson, coach for the senior team, added: "I hope Uefa gives the tournament to England so that all of the players can enjoy a special tournament, taking home memories of how the fans welcomed them and how good the facilities are in this country."

England Under-21 squad for European Championship qualifying games against Austria and Poland: Camp (Derby), Carson (Liverpool), Steele (Man Utd); Baines (Wigan), Davenport (Norwich), Dawson (Tottenham), Ferdinand (West Ham), Onuoha (Man City), Ridgewell (Aston Villa), Taylor (Newcastle); Whittingham (Derby), Huddlestone (Tottenham), Milner (Aston Villa), O'Neil (Portsmouth), Reo-Coker (West Ham), Soares (Crystal Palace), Thomas (Charlton), Welsh (Liverpool); C Cole (Chelsea), Moore (Aston Villa), Stead (Sunderland).

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